Goodness, gracious. WWE Great Balls of Fire may have sounded like a joke when it was first announced, but it wound up being an incredible first edition of the new Raw-brand pay-per-view card. The lead up to Sunday’s PPV featured two of the best rivalry builds in all of 2017. As it turned out, the two matches were just as good.
Though no titles changed hands during the show, the double main event stole the show in Dallas as Brock Lesnar defended his universal championship in a brief slugfest against Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns took his ultra-physical feud with Braun Strowman to an entirely new level of violence (not to mention attempted murder). The undercard beneath it was largely average, save for an electric Raw tag team championship match as Cesaro and Sheamus held off a late rally in the final seconds from The Hardy Boyz to win a red-hot 30-minute iron man match.
Be sure to check out the results and grades below, then subscribe to my podcast In This Corner with Brian Campbell where we will break down the entire pay-per-view Monday morning.
WWE Great Balls of Fire results, grades
Cruiserweight Championship — Neville (c) def. Akira Tozawa via pinfall to retain the title: Relegated to kickoff show status, this one came to a somewhat abrupt halt just as it was heating up. One thing the match accomplished in putting over was Neville’s willingness as a heel to do anything it takes to win — a trait fans saw more and more of in his feud with Austin Aries. Tozawa appeared on the verge of victory late after Neville missed on a Red Arrow. Tozawa landed a hurricanrana and Shining Wizard to set up his senton finisher from the top rope, but Neville smartly rolled out of the ring to avoid being pinned. After being thrown back in, Neville crotched Tozawa on the ropes before kicking the ropes to add insult to injury. Neville then kicked Tozawa in the stomach to set up the pin. Grade: C+
Bray Wyatt def. Seth Rollins via pinfall: If perception is reality, it has felt like Wyatt hasn’t been booked to win a pay-per-view match in years. That streak is over. Wyatt was victorious in the opening chapter of this feud, which included strong booking for his heel character. Wyatt used a thumb to the eye while the referee was distracted to injure Rollins, leaving him exposed for the Sister Abigail finisher and the subsequent 1-2-3. The match was a physical one throughout .Wyatt dominated early, including a superplex that shook the ring and a spiked DDT on the ring apron. A stiff clothesline from Wyatt stuffed a Rollins rally and sent him head over heels. Wyatt set up the finishing sequence by screaming in Rollins’ face: “This is what a God looks like.” Grade: B-
Big Cass def. Enzo Amore via pinfall: Despite an emotional promo before the match borrowing heavily from Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” Amore proved unable to overcome the kind of size you simply can’t teach. Cass was dominant throughout, taunting his ex-partner by saying, “Come on, tough guy. That’s life, huh?” A press slam from Cass tossed Amore outside of the ring. Shortly after, a big boot to the head set up the pin. Case did a decent job methodically creating heat from the crowd throughout. Grade: C
Tag Team Championship (30-Minute Iron Man Match) — Sheamus & Cesaro (c) def. The Hardy Boyz 4-3 to retain the titles: Talk about one heck of a great match to likely end what has been a consistently strong feud. Despite blowing a 3-1 lead, Cesaro and Sheamus defended championships following a creative sequence that led a tie-breaking pinfall with 28 seconds remaining. Matt Hardy tagged in Jeff Hardy, who landed a textbook Swanton Bomb onto Sheamus. Although it was difficult to tell who was the legal man, Cesaro dove in to surprise Jeff with a cover and the 1-2-3. With the clock ticking down and Matt busted open via hard way, Jeff attempted to rally in the closing seconds and hit Cesaro with a Twist of Fate. But as he hooked the leg for a cover, time expired in a red-hot finish.
The match featured a steady build of momentum and energy as all four participants sold out down the stretch. The heels built a 2-0 lead in the opening 11 minutes that increased to 3-1. But the Hardys rallied in a big way behind creative moves. They pulled even with just 2:48 remaining when Matt hit a Twist of Fate on Sheamus from the top rope. Grade: A-
Fall 1: Brogue Kick, Sheamus pins Matt (29:52) | 2: White Noise, Sheamus pins Jeff (19:50) | 3: Twist of Fate, Matt pins Cesaro (16:50) | 4: Matt thrown into ring post, counted out (13:08) | 5: Standing moonsault, Jeff pins Cesaro (6:55) | 6: Top rope Twist of Fate, Matt pins Sheamus (2:48) | 7: Rush-in, Cesaro pins Jeff (0:28)
Women’s Championship — Sasha Banks def. Alexa Bliss (c) via pinfall; Bliss retains the title: A poorly booked finish brought a sudden end to what had become a physical and intense matchup when Bliss repeated an overplayed spot by willingly accepting a countout loss with an evil grin on her face. The aftermath nearly made up for it, however, as an angry Banks chased down Bliss on the ramp and tossed her into the video screen. Banks then leaped from the announce table to land a double-knee splash onto Bliss, who was standing on the floor below. Banks added further fuel to the fire of this feud by kicking the champion in the stomach.
The match had strong energy from the beginning. Bliss repeated a spot she pulled off against Becky Lynch in December by creepily popping her left arm out of the socket to draw enough empathy from Banks for the champion to sucker punch her. Bliss then handed out an extended beating. But the tide turned when a Twisted Bliss finishing attempt landed on the knees of Banks. After the challenger applied her Banks Statement finisher, Bliss worked her way to the ropes and rolled out of the ring, setting up the finish. Grade: B-
Intercontinental Championship — The Miz (c) def. Dean Ambrose via pinfall to retain the title: In a feud that has gone on for too long throughout two installments this calendar year, it appears as if Miz has scored the last fall. Ambrose’s storyline hopes of regaining his title was derailed by the numbers game as Maryse and Miztourage played equal parts in providing distraction. Despite repeating a few overplayed spots, including Maryse placing Miz’s foot onto the ropes after Ambrose connected on a Dirty Deeds, Miz lived up to his heel character with the way the match ended. Curtis Axel jumped on the ring apron and was hip tossed in by Ambrose. But with the distraction keeping the referee at bay, Bo Dallas jumped up to clock Ambrose from behind. Miz followed with a Skull Crushing Finale for the 1-2-3. Grade: C
Ambulance Match — Braun Strowman def. Roman Reigns: In a throwback to the Attitude Era, Reigns took the anger from his accidental loss to a whole new level by driving an ambulance with Strowman inside into the back and crashing it in reverse into a semi. After fire trucks arrived and used the jaws of life to open the door, Strowman went on to exit under his own power despite bleeding from his arm and mouth while falling over multiple times. He refused treatment by yelling, “Leave me alone!” The chilling moment could go down as a double turn in the end because of Reigns’ heel behavior. Either way, it’s a moment fans won’t soon forget anytime soon.
The match itself was a predictably physical affair. The action carried over to the stage late after Strowman no-sold chair shots from Reigns. Strowman threw Reigns into the side of the ambulance and then picked him up and tossed him onto the stage. Reigns then threw Strowman through the wall of the video screen, causing it to smash to the ground. But after Reigns used a lighting grid to hand out more violence, his attempt at a spear badly missed, sending him into the ambulance’s open doors. Strowman instantly closed the doors to record the victory, though Reigns soon popped out and speared Strowman. Grade: B+
Heath Slater def. Curt Hawkins via pinfall: Only about half of the match was shown as WWE cut backstage to show the fire department opening the ambulance. The announcement of Slater as the winner could be heard in the background, and one would assume it was via pinfall. Grade: I
Universal Championship — Brock Lesnar (c) def. Samoa Joe via pinfall: Short, violent and impactful. In a match that wasn’t so far removed from Lesnar’s title-winning victory over Goldberg at WrestleMania, this one felt more like a legit mixed martial arts match. Lesnar took Samoa Joe to Suplex City on six occasions and fought off three Coquina Clutch attempts, including a final one late in the match that turned Lesnar’s face purple. Lesnar reversed the final choke attempt by putting Joe on his back, standing up and hitting an F5 for the 1-2-3. The match continued to put over Joe’s viability as a title contender, including his heel start by attacking Lesnar before the opening bell and slamming him through an announce table with a uranage. At just over six minutes, this had all the feel of a real fight. Grade: A-